Dear Emma–and Anderson and Sarah and Michael and Leslie and everyone else,
Recently, someone’s mother took photographs to celebrate her daughter’s fifth birthday. Instead of dressing her daughter up as a fairy, the mother dressed the daughter up as other women. The chosen women were “powerful”, as the mother was hoping that the daughter would be inspired to do some of the daring things these powerful women did. The mother then posted these things on the internet under the title “Not Just a Girl”.
Well, kids, I’d like you to know that you don’t have to be “powerful”. You don’t have to “make history” or “change the world”. You don’t have to be famous. You’re entitled to be anyone you want to be, and you don’t have to put the word just in front of your name if you end up being not powerful or not famous, or if the thing you change is something that you alone notice.
Used as an adverb, the word just means merely or at most. Being a girl or a boy or two-spirited never requires the word just. When I was young, it was usually old men who put that word in front of girl or boy or child; now, women put it there, too. Some people are afraid of being who they are, and they always want to be something bigger and better. Some parents want their children to be something bigger or better than themselves. When someone puts the word just in front of you, it’s because they’re insecure about themselves.
Your mother can dress you up like someone else, but that doesn’t make you that person. You will always be the person you were born to be. Feel free to be a fairy or Coco Chanel, or a girl or a boy, or anything else that’s part of you. The one thing you can’t change–and no one can change for you–is who you are. When something is that absolute, you can tell people that they don’t need to put just in front of it because there’s nothing just about it. Being yourself doesn’t fall into a place on a scale: it’s everywhere at all times, and words like girl and boy and person are bigger than the universe.
When someone wants you to dress up for a photo, why don’t you choose the way you dress? That way, you can choose to wear a costume and pretend to be someone else, or you can choose to be yourself–not just yourself!